I write a lot about three main themes, Apologetics, Biblical or Christian Worldview, and the Sovereignty of God. The latter two I am convinced are required for a “True Christian” to be able to navigate through the worldly affairs of life and be able to fulfill the first of being an Apologist (1 Peter 3:15).
As I came across and read this quote from Thomas Brooks two things crossed my mind, what was he referring to when he says “rugged providences” and are providence and sovereignty different?
Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines them as:
So after reading those definitions one can conclude first that they are not the same. A simple definition would be that God’s sovereignty is His power and control over all things. While His providence is the care and oversight He administers over His creation.
Back in 2019, John Piper was asked a similar question Are God’s Providence and God’s Sovereignty the Same? He too concludes that the two are separate things.
In answering what Brooks meant by “Rugged Providences” I obviously can not ask him, but having read many of his works I feel relatively comfortable in the belief that he was referring to everyday turmoils along life’s paths. Michale Horton in his book The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way, pg 361, makes this point:
“Ironically, many today who would not affirm a classic Christian notion of divine sovereignty in salvation nevertheless often speak as if God does all things in their daily lives directly, without any instrumental means or ‘secondary causes.’ If one attributes a remarkable recovery from an illness to the skill of the physicians, well-meaning Christians are sometimes inclined to reply, ‘Yes, but God was the one who healed her.’ In more extreme cases, some believers even excuse their laziness and lack of wisdom or preparation by appealing to God’s sovereignty. ‘Just pray about it’; ‘If God wants it to happen, it will happen.’”
“To be sure, the truth of God’s providence is meant to assure believers that ultimately our times are in God’s hands, but God does not fulfill all of his purposes directly. In fact, it is his ordinary course to employ means, whether human beings or weather patterns, social upheavals, animal migrations, various vocations, and a host of other factors over which he has control. We are comforted by the truth that God works all things – even adversity – into his plan for our salvation. God provides, but we are commanded to pray for our daily bread and to labor in our callings.”
Being a “Christian” is not a cakewalk, we are to expect many times of trouble, and how we handle them speaks volumes of our maturity as believers. A strong understanding of God’s divine Sovereignty and Providence will always make those times easier, Philippians 4:11-12.